But the sounding-board was an improvement, and we advanced to bolder measures; having heard a little, we wanted to hear more. Besides, those who sat in front began to be discontented with the melodeon. There are depths in music which the melodeon, even when it is called a cabinet organ, with a colored boy at the bellows, cannot sound. The melodeon was not, originally, designed for the Gothic worship. We determined to have an organ, and we speculated whether, by erecting it in the apse, we could not fill up that elegant portion of the church, and compel the preacher’s voice to leave it, and go out over the pews. It would of course do something to efface the main beauty of a Gothic church; but something must be done, and we began a series of experiments to test the probable effects of putting the organ and choir behind the minister. We moved the desk to the very front of the platform, and erected behind it a high, square board screen, like a section of tight fence round the fair-grounds. This did help matters. The minister spoke with more ease, and we could hear him better. If the screen had been intended to stay there, we should have agitated the subject of painting it. But this was only an experiment.
Our next move was to shove the screen back and mount the volunteer singers, melodeon and all, upon the platform,—some twenty of them crowded together behind the minister. The effect was beautiful. It seemed as if we had taken care to select the finest-looking people in the congregation,—much to the injury of the congregation, of course, as seen from the platform. There are few congregations that can stand this sort of culling, though ours can endure it as well as any; yet it devolves upon those of us who remain the responsibility of looking as well as we can.
The experiment was a success, so far as appearances went, but when the screen went back, the minister’s voice went back with it. We could not hear him very well, though we could hear the choir as plain as day. We have thought of remedying this last defect by putting the high screen in front of the singers, and close to the minister, as it was before. This would make the singers invisible,—“though lost to sight, to memory dear,”—what is sometimes called an “angel choir,” when the singers (and the melodeon) are concealed, with the most subdued and religious effect. It is often so in cathedrals.
This plan would have another advantage. The singers on the platform, all handsome and well dressed, distract our attention from the minister, and what he is saying. We cannot help looking at them, studying all the faces and all the dresses. If one of them sits up very straight, he is a rebuke to us; if he “lops” over, we wonder why he does n’t sit up; if his hair is white, we wonder whether it is age or family peculiarity; if he yawns, we want to yawn; if he takes up a hymn-book, we wonder if he is uninterested in the sermon; we look at the bonnets, and query if that